Men and women “play” differently in the workplace. By knowing how to use different leadership styles, women can win the game.
According to participants in my women advancement workshops, it happens A LOT. The women view this behavior as a sign of disrespect and obliviousness where the men think it’s reasonable behavior and healthy competition.
This is one of many ways in which men and women “play” differently at work. And, these different styles can create friction and hold women back. But, if women learn the game and switch their leadership styles when necessary, we may be able to start taking up more space in the C-suite.
Here are eight ways women can play like women and win like men:
Pat yourself on the back.
A lot of women feel uncomfortable drawing attention to their accomplishments. They’ll say “we” when it’s really “I” or say nothing at all.
Gail Evans, the author of Play Like a Man, Win Like a Woman, says because the workplace is run by a game where winning is the apparent objective, self-promotion is a way to show power. She advises not to be afraid to toot your own horn. If you don’t, no one else will.
Don’t be afraid to say “no.”
Men often have no qualms about turning down a project while women take on more and more.
Many women fear saying “no” is a sign of weakness–a sign that they can’t hack it. But Christopher Flett, author of What Men Don’t Tell Women About Business, says it is exactly the opposite. He says, “No-one promotes a ‘pile-on’”–a term he uses for someone who takes on more and more, never saying “no.”
I advise the women in my workshops that it’s okay to prioritize. “Work less and get promoted” is the statement I use over and over again. It’s getting women to think differently.
In the new book The Influence Effect, released this week, the authors from coaching firm Flynn Heath Holt reveal research that shows about half of women have significant difficulty inserting themselves into crucial meeting discussions. That’s while half of men say the most important thing women should address in meetings is being more confident and direct, less equivocal and apologetic.
Not speaking up in meetings is a tremendous missed opportunity to sell your ideas and yourself. Don’t be cowed by louder or more aggressive colleagues, or wait to be invited into the conversation. Force yourself to speak up more and defend your point of view. The authors of The Influence Effect share this advice–arrive early, speak early and ask questions.
In The Confidence Code, co-author Katty Kay says that research shows confidence is more important than competence–and women tend to focus firmly on the latter.
Don’t be afraid to take on something new and then figure it out. See it as an opportunity for growth–and believe that you can do it, even if you’ve never done it before.
Get to the point.
Men are generally conditioned to act, and so their communication style tends to be more solution-oriented and to the point. When communicating with men, women should aim to be succinct, direct and use declarative statements as opposed to finishing sentences with question marks.
Be specific with feedback.
If you’re leading men or collaborating with them, be specific in your directions–and especially your criticism.
Many men are hard-wired to let criticism roll off them. Rather than generalities, offer specific action items for them to act on.
Hit the water cooler.
The women at Flynn Heath Holt see “networking” or “schmoozing” as using the “power of the informal.” That means women can gain influence by working behind the scenes and using informal networks to strengthen relationships and get the support they need.
So, circulate the office or stay late at a meeting to find common ground with your male colleagues–talk about your kids or mutual interest in movies. This bond will extend to your working relationship and help you in the long run.
Don’t take things personally.
Because men and women communicate differently, often men’s way of doing things can be off-putting to women.
Remember that men aren’t likely trying to insult, offend or alienate you. And if they are, it’s even more important to put it back on them. You can use it as a coaching moment for yourself–and for them.
Working across gender in the workplace is more of an art than a science, but knowing these gender differences may quell some misunderstandings and even help more women get into the C-suite.
A version of the post was first published on Inc.